Celebrations of Joachim’s achievements

Berlin’s University of the Arts is currently observing the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Königlichen Hochschule für Musik with the “crescendo 2019” festival from 10-25 May. “Thank you Joseph Joachim!” is on the cover of the program guide. 

The number of times Joachim was publicly thanked for his artistry and general beneficial influence on music making seems countless.  The grandest celebrations were of Joachim’s 50th (1889 and 1894), and then 60th (1899 and 1904) anniversaries as a performing artist in Vienna and London, respectively. Joachim’s longevity was certainly extraordinary, as The Strad noted on the occasion of his “Diamond Jubilee” in Britain in 1904:

To the best of my recollection at this moment musical history does not contain one single example other than that of Dr. Joseph Joachim of a composer and instrumentalist celebrating what is now known as his Diamond Jubilee while still in the active pursuit of his profession.

The Strad (1904): 59.

But it was not just the length of his career: neither Wagner, nor Brahms, nor indeed any other composer was feted the way Joachim was. The admiration of kings and queens, statesmen, professors, virtuosos and artists, came together for Joachim in a unique way at these jubilees for the “Geigerkönig.”

This is a partial list of the events celebrating Joachim’s achievements during his lifetime.

March 2, 1889, Berlin: 50th Anniversary

The ceremonies in Berlin observing the 50th anniversary of Joachim’s professional debut were held on March 1 and 2, 1889. On behalf of the Kaiser, Minister von Gessler conferred the Grand Gold Medal for Art (normally a prize for the visual arts). Professor Helmholtz presented a gift of 100,000 marks, which included a large donation from the Mendelssohn family. 20,000 M went to the new “Joseph Joachim Stiftung”—which would help out Hochschule string students, while the remaining 80,000 M had no restrictions. But the biggest announcement was that Beethoven’s birth house in Bonn would be turned into a museum, and Joachim would be the honorary president of the associated society. At the March 1st ceremony, Hochschule Professor Philipp Spitta gave a speech; it was followed by a Bach cantata, conducted by Hochschule Professor Woldemar Bargiel. Joachim was presented a bust of himself by Donndorf. The festival concert was made up exclusively of works by Joachim, and was conducted by Professor Ernst Rudorff. The Hungarian Concerto had three former students as soloists: Hugo Olk played the first movement, Johann Kruse the second, and Henri Petri played the finale.1The program for the celebrations is given in Adolph Kohut, Josef Joachim : ein Lebens- und Künstlerbild : Festschrift zu seinem 60. Geburtstage (Berlin : A. Glas, 1891), http://hdl.handle.net/2027/nyp.33433075681662, pp. 75-76. Joachim acknowledged the tribute by playing his signature piece, the Bach Chaconne. A banquet for hundreds of people lasted into the early hours of the next morning.2“Das Joachim-Banket,” Berliner Tageblatt, Abend Ausgabe, 2 March 1889, p. 2. See also Moser, Joseph Joachim. Ein Lebensbild, vol. 2, 260.

April 13, 1889, London: 50th Anniversary Jubilee

The English were not to be outdone in their appreciation. On April 13th 1889, a group of English “friends and admirers” of Joachim held a ceremony with the painter Sir Frederick Leighton presiding. Others on the platform for the presentation included the painter Alma Tadema, the music critic of the London Times, John Fuller-Maitland, and Joachim’s chamber music collaborators in London, Louis Ries, Ludwig Straus, and Alfredo Piatti. The gift of a Stradivarius violin (known as “Il Cremonese”) and a gold-mounted Tourte bow was presented. In response, Joachim expressed gratitude for a red (varnish) violin to go along with the brown and yellow Stradivarius instruments he already possessed. One of the English reports on the anniversary celebration concluded: “No artist seeks less after distinctions than he does, and no artist deserves them better.”3G.R., The Strad, 1890: 2.

March 22, 1894, London: 50th Anniversary of 1st Performance in London

Great Britain observed the 50th anniversary of Joachim’s first performance in England at the Grafton Galleries in London. A committee of over fifty English artists were invited to present addresses of welcome to both Joachim and the cellist Alfredo Piatti, who also had first played in England in 1844.4“Presentation of Addresses to Professor Joachim and Signor Piatti,” Musical News 6 (March 31, 1894): 298.

April 22, 1899, Berlin: 60th Anniversary

The organizers for the 50th anniversary celebrations could hardly have anticipated the need to outdo themselves for another anniversary event ten years later. But Joachim’s 60th anniversary was observed in Berlin, on April 22, 1899 with a very special concert. Over 120 former students plus others on cello and double bass (66 violins, 54 violas, 24 cellos, 20 double basses) returned to the Hochschule in Berlin to play in a concert in his honor.5The exact numbers making up this festival orchestra vary according to source. The numbers given are from Borchard’s Stimme und Geige. Another source reports that first and second violins were comprised of 88 Joachim students, past and present, and the winds were from the Königlichen Kapelle, the Philharmoniker, the Meiningen Kapelle and Hochschule faculty and students. Siegfried Borris, Hochschule für Musik (Berlin Gestalt und Geist Band 3) Berlin Stadt Verlag, 1964), 15. These included soloists, concertmasters, and music professors from all over Europe. Their instruments made up a collection of 20 Strads, plus a dozen violins each by Amati and Guarneri; they were insured against fire for the duration of the festival for a million marks.6See Moser, Ein Lebensbild, vol. 2, 264. In addition to the concert, Joachim’s old friend Professor Herman Grimm wrote a Prologue for the event, which was declaimed by the Royal Theater actress Rosa Poppe.

Jubiläums-Orchester zu Ehren des 60jähriges Künstler-Jubiläums von Professor Dr. Joachim 22 April 1899

April 23, 1900, Amsterdam

Joseph Joachim and his associates of the Joachim Quartet were the recipients of public honors at the quartet soirée they gave at Amsterdam on the 23rd. Director Daniel DeLange, of the conservatory, on behalf of the teachers of the association, tendered Joachim a huge laurel wreath and the public applauded the artists to the echo.

Musical Courier XL no. 20 (May 16, 1900): 6.

May 1, 1903, London: dinner sponsored by the Oxford and Cambridge Musical Club

Given to Dr. Joachim and his three colleagues who together form the famous “Joachim Quartet.” “Given not merely by lovers of music, but by those graduates of our two great universities who have formed themselves into the Oxford and Cambridge Musical Club.”Joachim, an honorary doctor of both Universities, was made President for life with the founding of this club.7“Dinner to Dr. Joachim. (By one who was there.),” The Musical Herald (June 1, 1903):169.

April 27, 1904, Edinburgh: Scottish friends and admirers

Dr. Joachim was given an illuminated address and a silver laurel wreath by Professor Niecks.8“Honoring Dr. Joachim,” The Musical Times (June 1, 1904): 377.

May 16, 1904, London: “Diamond” Jubilee

Great Britain celebrated what it called the “Diamond Jubilee” (echoing the term for Queen Victoria’s 60th anniversary in 1897) of Joachim’s first performance in England.9See Robert Eshbach’s essay “A Victorian Musician,” for a full account of this event. The head of the Royal College of Music and Professor of Music at Oxford University, Sir Hubert Parry, gave the first speech; among other things, he praised Joachim’s selflessness: “Your first thoughts as a performer have ever been for the composer and not for yourself. In no hour have you yielded to the temptation of mere personal display.”10“Honoring Dr. Joachim,” The Musical Times (June 1, 1904): 376 Parry emphasized Joachim’s importance for the British nation.

The name of Joachim is indissolubly connected with music in Great Britain. It is certain that no one man has had so great an influence for good as he….his name has long been, and will, I trust, long remain a household word in British musical circles.

Sir Hubert Parry, Royal College of Music and Professor of Music at Oxford University
Portrait by John Singer Sargent, 1904

Joachim’s friend, the Prime Minister Balfour, presented him with his portrait, painted by the foremost portrait artist of the day, John Singer Sargent. Balfour then gave a speech emphasizing the universal qualities of music that “may be enjoyed, irrespective of nation.” He even went so far as to declare:

If the music of all the other nations of the world were destroyed, we should be the poorer by many a great masterpiece. But we might get on. If, however, the music of Germany were destroyed we should not get on.

Arthur Balfour, Prime Minister of Great Britain

This speech, and this comment specifically, were reprinted in many English and German music papers.11See “The Joachim Celebration,” The Athenaeum 3995 (May 21, 1904):664; The Supplement of the Week, Musical Standard (May 21, 1904): 322; “DR. JOACHIM’S JUBILEE.” The Violin Times 11 (June 1904):93. 1904 was the year Britain made an alliance (the so-called Entente cordiale) with France, which signified another step away from Germany. However, the love of the British for Joachim seemed to suspend nationalistic ideology–for a time, at least.

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3 thoughts on “Celebrations of Joachim’s achievements

      1. ok, yes, I looked at your link. I get it. But there is still something fishy about the whole thing, though I do get that Joachim was truly not a money-grubbing showman, traveling circus, type of musician. Hmmm…

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